How Seles inspired comeback queen Kvitova
PETRA Kvitova was given little chance of ever playing tennis again following a horrific knife attack back in 2016.
Now she's into the Australian Open final and poised to add to her two majors, while victory will also see her cap her stunning comeback with the world No.1 ranking.
Not even Kivitova could have imagined such a scenario 25 months ago.
The Czech star's career derailed just before Christmas in 2016 when she let a man posing as a tradesman enter her home in Prostejov in the Czech Republic.
Demanding cash, he attacked her, holding a knife to her throat, but Kvitova fought back, with the knife almost severing her index finger on her dominant left hand in the struggle.
It took almost four hours for doctors to insert a pin into that finger and repair the tendon damage in her others, as well as damage to two nerves.
She was told she had a 10 per cent chance of playing elite tennis again. But the 28-year-old put as much effort into her recovery as she had into her tennis training and she embraced the mindset that made her famously tough to beat in three sets.
It was three months before Kvitova could even pick up a racquet again and try to grip it and six months before she returned to the main stage, at the French Open in 2017. After a long investigation the attacker was arrested and charged.
Kvitova said she was inspired during her recovery by former world No.1 Monica Seles, who suffered a knife attack on court from a crazed fan. Seles took over two years to return to the game and won the last of her nine grand slam trophies at the 1996 Australian Open.
"She has been through a similar thing," Kvitova said when she met Seles last June.
"She had a difficult comeback, a great comeback.
"She has been through the worst and when I returned to tennis, she was an inspiration for me."
Kvitova has since won seven titles, including the 26th of her career in Sydney earlier this month, and is now into first major final since claiming her second Wimbledon title in 2014.
But, given her ordeal over the past two years, it's little wonder the quietly-spoken Czech was so emotional in the immediate aftermath of her semi-final victory over American Danielle Collins on Thursday.
"Are you going to make me cry again?" Kvitova said.
"It means everything.
"That's why I worked very hard to be in the finals of the tournament, the final of the major.
"Finally, I could make it deep into a major and I really enjoy a final and, whatever happens, I'm really very, very happy."